FreeBar aims to support sexuality and gender minority barristers through their career, and get heterosexual lawyers on board
The bar has stood up in defiance against its stuffy stereotype and rolled out a first of its kind LGBT+ network.
FreeBar is a new forum — championed by the likes of Hardwicke, Matrix Chambers, No5 Chambers and 3 Hare Court, working in association with equal rights campaign group Stonewall — focused on supporting LGBT+ barristers.
It hopes to promote and celebrate LGBT+ role models, and ensure that sexuality and gender minority barristers are supported throughout their career.
There is a deep-rooted fear amongst LGBT+ lawyers that homophobia and other biases still linger across the profession. To combat this, lawyers have been hit with a barrage of pro-diversity initiatives over the past few years. LGBT networks are now commonplace in top commercial law firms, with the likes of Simmons & Simmons and Pinsent Masons proving particularly inclusive.
But there is a strong perception that it’s law firms that are leading the way on the diversity front, to the detriment of junior barristers and QCs.
Barristers like Brie Stevens-Hoare QC, from Hardwicke Chambers, have noticed this. She said:
Until now the Bar has lagged behind the progressive achievements of solicitors.
Forums like FreeBar aim to buck the trend. Stevens-Hoare continued:
Interlaw has shown what a collective focus on inclusion and culture change can achieve. We are excited to be starting that journey for the Bar.
The bar does have an existing sexuality minority support group called the Bar Lesbian & Gay Group (Blagg), but this new initiative is different. When we contacted Stevens-Hoare to find out a bit more about it all, she told us that FreeBar is the bar’s first LGBT+ forum, and represents the first time that there has been a focus on including straight allies.
On her personal involvement in the project, Stevens-Hoare had this to say:
I am involved in FreeBar because it is important to me that anyone who is LGBT+ working in or with the bar (employed or self employed) and the bar’s clients should know, without exception, or hesitation that they will be accepted, treated appropriately and their differences understood.